HOW TO IMPLEMENT A
Incorporating a regular PM program is
essential for today’s fleet managers. Be proactive in scheduling
vehicle service before a breakdown occurs and keep good records
to avoid negligent entrustment issues.
New Jersey City University’s fleet of
vans are serviced regularly to avoid By Patrick Bartole, CAFM
often-costly reactive maintenance.
reventive maintenance (PM) Some vehicles may be prone to exces-
consists of scheduled servic- sive breakdowns requiring expensive
ing, inspections, and vehicle repairs, causing a vehicle to be out of
AT A GLANCE repairs to prevent potential service when least expected and possi-
problems and maximize vehicle avail- bly when needed most. Vehicles may
An effective PM program should con-
sist of the following: ability. Preventive maintenance is used become unsafe due to lack of PM. Prop-
to proactively avoid or reduce vehicle er maintenance will also help prevent
• Checklist of PM service tasks breakdowns and is based on time, litigation from negligence.
performed. mileage, engine hours, or gallons of fuel Preventive maintenance is as impor-
used. Preventive maintenance actions tant as driver safety programs. If a vehicle
• PM service interval or frequency to
include vehicle inspection, lubrication, becomes unsafe due to lack of mainte-
adjustment, cleaning, testing, repair, nance or repair, the fleet manager can be
• Driver written-up inspections and/or worn parts replacement. held liable for negligent entrustment. As
and/or complaints. defined, liability is premised upon pro-
Why be Concerned with Preventive viding an employee with a dangerous tool
• An automotive facility with
Maintenance? or instrument, such as a vehicle, while
trained professional automotive
To maximize the availability of vehi- knowing, or having reason to know, that
technicians — either in-house or
cles, PM services must be performed on use of the vehicle creates unreasonable
a scheduled basis. If preventive mainte- risk or harm to others. Simply stated, the
• Scheduling and recordkeeping, nance is not performed regularly, vehicle vehicle must be safe to operate. Should
either manual or electronic. life span will be greatly reduced. the brakes fail causing a serious crash or
30 Government Fleet September / October 2006
fatality, the vehicle is impounded by au-
thorities for investigation.
Should the investigation determine that
bad brakes or other vehicle malfunctions
contributed to the accident, the authori-
ties can seek a court order to obtain
vehicle maintenance records. If your
operation fails to practice preventive
maintenance under these circumstances,
you could be prosecuted for a negligent
act, which you failed to prevent.
Preventive Maintenance Methods
Vehicle maintenance and repairs can
be performed in one of two methods:
• Proactive: scheduled preventive
New Jersey City University’s fleet uses an online fleet management software tool to
• Reactive: unscheduled breakdown track vehicle maintenance records.
A scheduled vehicle service consists of
preventive maintenance, scheduled com- The following should be addressed • Vehicle body (e.g., glass, body dam-
ponent repairs, and driver inspection. during a routine preventive mainte- age, cleanliness, etc.).
Unscheduled breakdown maintenance is nance service: engine oil and filter • Vehicle miscellaneous repair items
most often due to lack of preventive changes; transmission fluid; fuel sys- (heater, radio, etc.).
maintenance. Reactive maintenance can tem; cooling system; engine and trans- The vehicle operator must be held
be costly and should be minimized by a mission mounts; drive shafts or CV accountable for inspecting these items.
proactive preventive maintenance pro- joints; belts and hoses; tune-ups; elec- The PM program depends on the driver
gram. The object is to have the majority trical system components; braking sys- for continued success. Should the
of vehicle maintenance and repairs tem; steering and suspension system; vehicle operator fail to inspect the
scheduled rather than unscheduled. tires, wheels, and rims; exhaust system; vehicle prior to, during, and after a
undercarriage and frame; exterior and trip, a potential problem may go unno-
Developing an Effective PM Program interior lights; body, glass, and mirrors; ticed causing a breakdown or unsafe
An effective PM program should con- windshield wiper system; horn; seat- condition.
sist of the following: belts and seat structures; fluid leaks; Training and accountability are im-
• Checklist of PM service tasks per- and auxiliary systems. portant. The vehicle operator must be
formed. trained on proper inspection proce-
• PM service interval or frequency to Driver is First Line of Defense dures and be held responsible for fail-
perform tasks. The vehicle operator is the first line of ure to inspect and report vehicle prob-
• Driver written-up inspections defense against unexpected breakdowns lems. This requires the support of each
and/or complaints. and repairs. It is important that the driv- department and senior management.
• An automotive facility with trained er communicate vehicle problems im- As a team effort, the PM program can
professional automotive technicians — mediately to fleet management. This al- be a great success.
either in-house or outsourced. lows the vehicle operator to participate
• Scheduling and recordkeeping, ei- in the PM program, proactively reducing
ther manual or electronic. breakdowns. The following vehicle sys-
tems should be monitored by the driver:
Developing a PM Service Checklist • Vehicle safety items (e.g., tires,
An effective PM program should in- wipers, horn, brakes, steering, etc.).
clude a task list of both preventive main- • Vehicle drivability items (e.g., mis-
tenance and safety items. fire, rough idle, etc.).
To avoid unexpected breakdowns and
Effective PM programs include task lists of both downtime, implement a regular pre-
ventive maintenance fleet program.
safety items and preventive maintenance.
September / October 2006 Government Fleet 31
Vehicle PM Checklist The PM service is only as good as the person
(6 Months/3,000 Miles)
• Change engine oil and filter. performing it; shortcuts must never be taken.
• Grease front end and check for wear. The technician must proactively service each
• Grease and lube door, hood, and vehicle to reduce breakdowns and repairs.
• Check under vehicle for fluid leaks.
Determine PM Intervals Regardless of which scheduling
• Check undercarriage and suspension Check the vehicle owner’s manual for method chosen, it is important to pur-
for wear. the manufacturer’s recommended PM chase a system that can be customized
intervals. However, note that PM ser- to your specific application require-
• Check engine and transmission mounts.
vice intervals depend upon vehicle op- ments. Depending on those fleet oper-
• Check drive shafts, u-joints, and/or CV erating conditions during either “nor- ating requirements, the system should
joints for wear. mal” or “severe” duty. Most fleets enable you to create customized pre-
operate under what is considered severe ventive maintenance schedules, create
• Check exhaust system for wear. duty, including: and track work orders, track fuel usage,
• Check tires for wear, rotate and set tire
• Towing a trailer or using a camper record detailed maintenance histories
or car-top carrier. and tire logs, track accident and claims,
pressure to specs.
• Extensive idling and/or low-speed manage inventory, and monitor labor,
• Check front brake pads, brake rotors, driving (such as inner-city driving or invoicing, and stock reports.
and brake hoses for wear. stop-and-go traffic).
• Vehicles used for commercial appli- Who Performs PM Service?
• Check/service battery and cables.
cations such as deliveries, taxi, livery, or Preventive maintenance can be per-
• Check all drive belts and replace if worn. patrol car. formed by either an in-house certified
• Vehicles used by multiple drivers automotive technician or outsourced to
• Check radiator, thermostat, and such as fleet or motor pool operations. a local automotive service center spe-
all hoses. • Vehicles operated in off-road or cializing in fleet preventive mainte-
dusty conditions. nance with certified technicians using
• Replace air filter element.
• Add fuel system treatment to fuel tank. Technology Eases Scheduling Teach in-house technicians the im-
Preventive maintenance can be portance of performing thorough pre-
• Check heating and air conditioning scheduled manually or by using a fleet ventive maintenance service. The PM
system operation. management software (automated service is only as good as the person per-
• Check all vehicle fluid levels.
computer system). forming it; shortcuts must never be
Manual systems can be tedious and taken. The technician must proactively
• Check all seatbelts for proper operation. time-consuming to manage, especially service each vehicle to reduce break-
for larger fleets. These days, technology downs and repairs.
• Check all vehicle accessories for proper
is affordable even for the smallest fleet. If your fleet operation outsources
Computerized systems are a more preventive maintenance, use a local
• Check all vehicle lights and replace worn efficient method for gathering timely vendor specializing in maintaining fleet
bulbs. reports on all aspects of fleet manage- vehicles. It is a good idea to meet with
ment. Reports can be generated faster the service manager to discuss the fol-
• Check body, glass, and mirrors. and more accurately, allowing the lowing PM service issues:
fleet manager to make timely proactive • Expectations.
• Replace wiper blades and check for
decisions. • Requirements.
Affordable software systems can be • Scheduled intervals.
• Clean and degrease engine. purchased from reputable companies Supply the vendor with your PM
specializing in fleet management soft- checklist. Most shops focus on break-
• Road test vehicle for proper operation.
ware. When it comes to hardware, most down maintenance, not preventive
companies have an information tech- maintenance. Communicate your exact
nology department that can supply fleet expectations to the maintenance facility
management with the appropriate com- using your own PM program. Request
puters or an IT expert can be hired. the fleet discount on both parts and
32 Government Fleet September / October 2006
For unscheduled maintenance, track
the number of repairs, breakdowns,
jumpstarts, tows, emergency repairs,
and collision repairs.
The majority of maintenance jobs
should be scheduled PM. Tracking and
comparing scheduled and unscheduled
maintenance provides a detailed report
on the success of a preventive mainte-
Not all unscheduled maintenance can
be avoided; for example, drivers may
accidentally leave on the interior lights,
causing a dead battery. Nevertheless, by
analyzing breakdown maintenance, PM
frequency can be adjusted and the PM
task list can be modified to best suit a
Monitor the Cost of PM
Since maintenance and repair cost
are considered a variable operating ex-
pense, fleet mangers should track parts,
labor, vendor, fuel, and collisions. These
costs should be monitored and ana-
lyzed routinely to determine which ve-
hicles cost the most. This enables proac-
tive decisions regarding vehicle
efficiency and replacement. A properly
maintained vehicle provides the lowest
operating cost. If the vehicle is running
poorly, it is prone to costly breakdowns,
higher fuel cost, and driver write-ups.
A monthly Microsoft Excel report tracks PM activity and cost, including job totals,
both scheduled and unscheduled, work performed, and variable operating costs.
Assemble Detailed Report
Using data collected from tracking
preventive maintenance activity and
labor. In addition, make sure whoever • Service center (if outsourced). cost, assemble a detailed report using
services your vehicles uses the factory- • Name of automotive technician. an Excel spreadsheet. The report should
recommended fluids and lubricants de- • Parts and labor costs. be generated on a monthly basis and
tailed in the vehicle owner’s manual. In addition, recordkeeping is proof that submitted to senior management
maintenance and repairs were performed. for review. Outline the total number
Maintain Vehicle Service Records This is extremely important should a of completed vehicle jobs, both sched-
Maintaining vehicle service records is problem arise, such as a collision. Drivers uled and unscheduled. Provide detailed
an important part of any fleet operation. are quick to blame a collision on vehicle information on the type of scheduled
A hard copy file of each individual fleet safety. To avoid negligence, operating a and unscheduled work performed.
vehicle owned must be kept even if the safe fleet requires preventive maintenance Also include fleet variable operating
information is stored electronically. The and recordkeeping. cost items. GF
file consists of detailed vehicle data anda
listing of all service work performed, Track Preventive Maintenance ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Patrick Bartole, CAFM, is
including: It is important to track maintenance fleet management supervi-
• Date of PM service or repair. activity, “scheduled versus unsched- sor at the Department of
Facilities and Construction
• Description of work performed. uled.” For scheduled maintenance, track Management for New Jer-
• Vehicle odometer reading. the number of PM services and repairs sey City University. He can
be reached at
• Work order number and/or invoice including driver write-ups and other firstname.lastname@example.org.
number. proactively scheduled non-PM work.
34 Government Fleet September / October 2006